Scheduling an appointment with a doctor just to get some basic information about your health is a hassle, and it's expensive and ineffective for doctors to make sure their patients are doing well even when they're not in direct care. So devices that can measure your vital signs (and send them to a doctor) are becoming more and more popular. Berg Insight reports that the market for home health monitoring devices was $10 billion in 2010, and patient monitoring is set to grow about 26% annually through 2014. So what will these future devices look like and how will you use them? A new IBM study outlines some ideas of how our homes, bodies, and doctors will all soon be connected:
Blood Monitoring—Without Drawing Blood
For the chronically ill, constant blood tests are a way of life. But few people enjoy getting blood drawn every day, let alone making frequent trips to the local lab. Enter the non-invasive blood test, which analyzes blood via a wrist band and automatically sends the information to your doctor. If anything abnormal shows up—say, a drop in iron levels or a higher white blood cell count—users will instantly know to get help.
It's every video game junkie's dream: an avatar that you can control with your mind. But IBM isn't interested in video games; the company thinks that brain wave-tapping devices will allow the medically impaired (and even the non-verbal) to communicate their thoughts. Patients could, for example, indicate unpleasant sensations in their body, request more oxygen, or simply ask for medical attention.
Digital Pill Boxes
Instead of relying on hawk-eyed nurses to monitor whether elderly patients are taking their medications, caregivers could instead enlist the help of digital pill boxes that monitor whether medication has been taken and home in on the exact location of the patient.
These devices aren't available quite yet, but they're not as far off as you might think. Intel has already developed the personal telehealth Health Guide system, and GE is working on QuietCare, a remote monitoring system for the elderly. Whether these gadgets thrive will depend on ease of use, pricing (three quarters of users surveyed by IBM consider a price at or below $100 a critical decision factor), and perhaps most importantly, whether doctors will be willing to monitor individual patients so closely. Because without health care professionals on the receiving end of all this telehealth data, it's just useless technology.